THOSE who visit the mass grave of the 33 people who died in the 1868 Abergele train disaster can now discover each victim’s story on the spot.

Lord Farnham, of County Cavan, and Judge Berwick (Cork and Dublin) were among the people who died when the prestigious Irish Mail crashed into wagons near Llanddulas on 20 August 1868 as it headed for the Dublin ferry at Holyhead.

The front carriages became an inferno and only three bodies could be identified.

All who died at the scene were buried together in St Michael’s Churchyard, Abergele.

Now the HistoryPoints initiative has placed QR codes near the grave so that anyone can use a smartphone for information about the crash and each of the victims, including the driver of the Irish Mail who died of his injuries later.

While most of the dead were English or Irish, Dublin church organist William Henry Owen was from a musical Welsh family.


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In 1860 his father, known as Owain Alaw, published what became the Welsh national anthem.

Many articles and books have been written about the accident but here the focus is very much on the victims, their stories having never been published in such detail together.

The QR codes connect smartphones to a web page which can also be viewed on the HistoryPoints website at home.

The individuals’ stories were researched by Dr Hazel Pierce, a member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives.

She said: “The first class carriages were at the front of the Irish Mail. Those who died were mainly wealthy people who could afford the higher fares but the accident also claimed the lives of a 10-year-old girl and various working people, including servants and three railway workers.

“They all deserve to be remembered, as well as the effect their deaths had on those they left behind.”

Rev Kate Johnson, vicar of Abergele, said: “The memory of the 1868 train tragedy is with us in Abergele.

“People come searching for the painting in the town hall, records in the archives and the gravesite in St Michael’s Churchyard of the 33 people who died.

“We shake our heads in sympathy, but it was devastating for those who saw the tragedy unfolding on that fateful day and those responsible for the aftermath.

“So, on 20 August 2023 we will pray for the souls of those who died in such a tragic way.”

Archives and churches in Ireland and England kindly provided images to illustrate web pages in memory of some of the people or groups who died.

Each of those pages is accessible by clicking on a dove icon beside the person’s summary on the main web page.

HistoryPoints is a non-commercial venture which has created QR codes for more than 2,200 places across Wales since 2012, to enable people to discover the stories of places and objects on the spot or when browsing the website.